Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 11, 2016

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2016: Day Two

TrucksAC at the PWCThe day began with a blockade at 4th and Arch, between me and the Wyndham Hotel. For a moment, I was dismayed, but then I remembered the theme from yesterday: Perseverance. So I found another parking garage and walked 2 blocks to the hotel.

What I found out later was that if I had told the man at the blockade that I needed to get to the hotel, he would have let me through. But I didn’t ask, I just followed the 3 cars ahead of me and went elsewhere. So I learned a lesson today: ALWAYS ASK. You never know what you might achieve by simply having the nerve to ask for it.

Cecily Kellogg

Cecily Kellogg

So after I managed to get to the hotel, I kicked off Day Two (see full schedule below) by attending Cecily Kellogg’s excellent workshop on Building A Digital Brand. Not only is she a lively presenter (good for an early workshop!) but she had plenty of information and ideas on what social media works best for authors, and what we need to consider when building our author brand. Our brand needs to be a conscious, thoughtful, decision, not a slapdash affair we make up as we go along.

Then back to Rachel Pastan’s Planning Your Novel. We discussed her three-box schema some more, then moved on to the 3 elements of character. Using a combination of the schema and the character elements, we concentrated on creating short premise or elevator pitch lines that captured the entirety of the novel in a compelling way. Being able to distill our work down to one line will help keep us focused during the long slog that is writing a novel. By keeping that premise in front of us, we can keep our plot moving in the right direction, even if we are pantsers.

Lunch at the Bourse, then back for the afternoon sessions! There was an Open Mic Lunch which I did not attend, but several people who did said several of the performances were outstanding and they enjoyed the event a great deal. If anyone who attended wants to elaborate on it, please let me or J. Thomas Ross know and we’ll get you on the blog as a guest.

I went to day 2 of Anna Kashina’s Worldbuilding workshop, and today we dug deep. She provided us with a Worldbuilding Toolkit to get us to think about the multiple threads of a world we need to consider, from the obvious such as social structure to the less obvious such as naming household items. Even though this work is best done before writing the book, Kashina reminded us that the worldbuilding does not end until you finish writing the book. Each scene adds detail and layers to the world you created, and all of that must be collected into your worldbuilding bible so you can refer back to it the next time you visit that world.

In Kathryn Craft’s Maximizing the Emotional Potential of Your Novel, we examined the various arcs we must complete in a novel to evoke emotion in the reader. Once again, structure supports emotion as we use structural building blocks to guide the reader to the emotion we want them to feel. Kathryn’s list of possible arcs contained more than I had ever thought about (did you know setting can have an arc?), and the accompanying macro-editing tools she discussed should make the editing process less confusing and our arcs stronger.

31 - From Page to Stage with Keith Strunk, 6-11

Keith Strunk

Last for today was Keith Strunk’s fantastic Master Class, From Page to Stage, wherein he taught us how to read our stories aloud to greatest effect. Keith’s energy mesmerized us, and it was exactly the uplifting positivity we nervous authors needed to embrace a new role as public personality. We all agreed that this class needs to be a two-day affair, with one day being all the information he poured on us today, and a second day to put it into practice by reading aloud.

The Keynote Banquet was tonight, but as usual I did not attend. The keynote speaker was Cristin Aptowicz. As with the Open Mic Lunch, if anyone who attended the Keynote Banquet wants to elaborate on it, please let me or J. Thomas Ross know and we’ll get you on the blog as a guest.

I am learning a great deal at the conference this year, but I think Cecily Kellogg asked the questions that will give me the most to think about for tonight (and beyond). When building our brand, she said we should answer the questions, “What makes you special? Why would people want to connect with you? What unique thing can you offer?”

What an existential thing to ponder first thing in the morning. Thing is, now it’s 10 at night and I still don’t have any answers. So I guess I’ve got some thinking to do—and judging by the reaction in the room, a lot of other people do, too.

Tomorrow brings the last day of what has been an energizing experience for me so far. I am eager for what new knowledge awaits me, and if I come across an obstacle in my path, I will remember to ASK for help!

Wyndham Sign

Saturday’s Full Schedule

Single Day Workshops

9:00 AM
MASTER CLASS – A Fresh Break for Your Writing: Viewing A Poem’s Line Breaks as Possibilities, Not Endings – BJ Ward
MASTER CLASS – The Sound on the Page: Finding and Using Your Voice – Ben Yagoda

9:30 AM
Building a Digital Brand and Creating Content – Cecily Kellogg
Travel Writing – Sarah Maiellano

Three Day Workshops

11 AM
Basic Playwriting – Bruce Graham
Ekphrastic Poetry: Painting, Sculpting, and Making Music with Words – Bernadette McBride
Insider Secrets to Getting Published (Non-Fiction) – Jeffrey Herman
Planning A Novel – Rachel Pastan

12:30 PM – Open Mic Lunch

1:30 PM
Blogging with Humor – Donna Cavanaugh
Crafting the Short Story – Kathleen Miller
Memoir: Tell Your Story – Anne Kaier
Writing and World-Building in the Genres of Speculative Fiction – Anna Kashina

3:00 PM
Creating a Television Pilot: From Idea to Pitch – Diane Walsh
How a Poem Should “Be” – Alison Hicks
Magazine Writing Boot Camp – Debra Wallace
Maximize the Emotional Potential of Your Novel – Kathryn Craft

Single Day Workshops

Pitch Perfect – Sell Your Work to Agents and Editors – Frances Grote
Using Social Media to Develop Your Voice and Promote Your Work – Charles O’Hay
MASTER CLASS – From Page to Stage: The Author as Storyteller – Keith Strunk

6:00 PM – Keynote Banquet – Speaker: Cristin Aptowicz

AC at the PWC



  1. […] report on each day and each day’s schedule — check out Kerry’s posts on Day One, Day Two, and Day Three of the conference — I’m going to share some tips from the workshops I […]


  2. […] and I attended the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. You can check out our daily recaps here, here, and here, and J. Thomas’ Tips and Pix post […]


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